A fourth-grade math teacher at East Silver Spring Elementary School humbly accepted the 2018 – 2019 Milken Educator Award and a large check for $25,000 on Friday, Nov. 2.
Annually, 40 teachers nationwide receive the award from the Milken Family Foundation.
Brian Quinn, 35, gasped after hearing he had won, and said, “I’m shocked. I don’t think I am even in the Top 10. There are so many greater teachers than me here.”
When asked why he thought he was chosen for the national award, Quinn said, “I honestly have no clue.” Quinn has been teaching at the school for “six or seven years.”
The math games that Quinn gets his students to create drew the Foundation to him as did the fact that 70 percent of his students test at grade-level proficiency.
According to the foundation, Quinn uses a data-driven, team-centric strategy that stresses small group cooperation and individualized instruction.
The foundation described Quinn as, “an analytical yet caring educator who demands success from every student.”
Teachers cannot be nominated for this award, said Jane Foley, senior vice president at the Milken Family Foundation. Instead, the foundation’s staff reaches out to individual state departments of education for its list of nominees.
Recipients are leaders, mentors and unsung heroes who are early in their career. Foley said. “We are looking for people with decades ahead of them.”
Quinn, an ardent Redskins football fan, enjoys teaching, because, “Every day is new. It’s exciting.”
He explained that besides math skills, he makes sure his students strive to “be the best you can be.” He also tells them to “be a leader. Don’t be a follower.”
The Salisbury University graduate, who earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction for middle school mathematics from the University of Maryland in 2016, said he strives to know his students and their families.
“I get invited to birthday parties,” said Quinn, who chairs the school’s math committee and collaborates with colleagues on teaching strategies. He also mentors student teachers and interns and builds school relationships with local businesses.
What makes Quinn excellent, said East Silver Spring Principal Michael Burd, is that “he takes the time to get to know the whole student,” adding that when a student is not having a good day, he tries to determine “what he may do to turn the day around.”
Quinn “is a relationship guy,” Burd said.
Aside from math, Quinn assists during the school’s STEM night, reading night and talent showcase. He has coached Girls on the Run and captains the staff’s softball and kickball teams.
When asked how he planned to spend his $25,000, Quinn joked about going to happy hour, but then spoke of saving some, “maybe taking a trip and buying something nice for my mom” and coworkers, he said.
The prize was announced during an early morning school assembly. When the students learned who had won, they immediately began chanting, “Mr. Quinn, Mr. Quinn.”
The pre-kindergarten through second grade students listened intently as Foley told them, “Educators have the most important job in this country.”
Educators teach those in other fields who go on to win MVP, Oscars and Nobel prizes, she said. But teachers “haven’t had that kind of celebration,” she said. “That’s wrong.”
To date, the foundation has distributed more than 2,700 awards, totaling $68 million.
The last teacher to win in Montgomery County was Madeline Hanington, who was an English teacher at Gaithersburg Middle School when she won in 2011.
Attending the assembly were U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith and Maryland Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon.